You're at a stoplight in a Detroit suburb on a Saturday afternoon when your muscle car radar goes off. Greg Charney's 1968 Dodge Dart has just rolled up. Suddenly, whatever cookie-cutter car you're driving seems vastly inadequate. The symphony of solid-roller valvetrain, geardrive whine, and Flowmaster exhaust is cloaked in the most beautiful custom metallic blue paint you've seen in years, but that's not what you're thinking as your eyes lock onto the no-joke Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials. If no cops are around, Greg might even crack the throttle and haze the tires through a couple of gears, showing off his stick-shift chops in the process. Even if he doesn't, your day just won't be the same.
To understand Greg Charney's magnificent 1968 Dart, it helps to understand the man. The 64-year-old retired Chrysler powertrain engineer is still very much the same teenager who used his street-racing acumen and mechanical aptitude to wrangle a highly coveted job at Chrysler engineering back in 1967. "I was one of the many people who went down there and applied. I took the mechanical test and got the job," Greg says. "They don't usually pay much attention to these tests unless somebody does really bad or really good." (You get one guess which one Greg was.) Soon, Greg was palling around with Al Adams—who history records would become heavily involved with the Motown Missile Pro Stock program.
Greg explains: "I wasn't at engineering for two months when I started building a 440 Max Wedge. They asked me to bring my 1965 Plymouth out there, so I did. I would go out to 696 on Thursday nights and beat up on the Fords and the Chevys. If you were lucky, you could suck out Jim Wangers and show him the door. I did that a few times. That car went 11.50s at like 122 mph. It was very unassuming looking."
After talking with Chrysler's Tom Hoover—best known as the father of the Hemi—Greg decided to build a real race car and successfully secured a leftover 1965 Dodge Coronet A990. Years prior, a shipment of A990 Coronets had been converted to altered wheelbases and run in NHRA A/FX—then in the embryonic Funny Car class. There just so happened to be several unmolested, stock-wheelbase shells remaining. When combined with a wrecked yet complete 1965 Coronet scored for $300, Greg was able to build a Super Stock Hemi car that quickly rose through the NHRA ranks and took the spotlight at one of the most significant drag races of the 20th century. "I was at the right place at the right time," Greg says. "We couldn't afford not to race with all the cool stuff that was being handed to us. We got parts for free, and I loved doing it. I wasn't making much money at the time, so it was great having somebody give all that stuff to us. Why wouldn't you? The car was quick and had a good reputation. We went some rounds and won a race or two."
Went some rounds and won a race or two, huh? How about winning the Super Stock class at the 1971 NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indy in one of the most star-studded fields ever assembled? In case your memory fails, the 1971 U.S. Nats was the same race that Steve Carbone's slingshot dragster went up against Garlitz's newer, faster rear-engine Swamp Rat 14—and won the Top Fuel final after a still highly controversial starting-line burn down. Meanwhile, Greg was not only a witness to history, he was a part of it, beating Terry Earwood's Challenger in the final round of Super Stock. As if the Wally on the shelf wasn't enough, Greg also took Second Place at the 1971 Detroit Autorama with the same 1965 Dodge A990. Yeah, the country's biggest, most influential car show. Do you see a pattern here?
Within two years, Chrysler would pull the plug on its support for motorsports, including NHRA drag racing. When coupled with the oil embargo, tough economic times, and a rocky first marriage that resulted in divorce, it was no longer feasible for Greg to race. Nevertheless, fast cars and hot engines were never far from Greg's mind, or his job at Chrysler, where he pulled the dyno handle for 27 years. That time went to good use as he gained an encyclopedic knowledge of everything Mopar—something that would help him years later with the car you see here. In 1993, Greg got a tap on the shoulder because the suits wanted him to take a job in management upstairs. ("That was a cultural shock!") The white-collar position put Greg in charge of coordinating all prototype engine builds for the large-car platform.
By 2002, it was time for Greg to hang up his hat. But unbeknownst to him, the fun was just beginning. Right around that time he started going to car shows and races and hanging out—where else?—at the Mopar Performance semitruck display. As you can imagine, the Mopar booth attracts a who's who of Chryco engine builders, racers, fabricators, and dignitaries past and present, especially when it's camped out anywhere near the Motor City. Naturally, Greg started helping out, informally at first. Then they offered him a job working it full time, giving him the chance to crisscross the country once again.
While working an NHRA race in Atlanta in 2008, Greg met a guy who had a stash of A-Bodies that included a 1968 Dart for sale. "As a longtime fan of the sedan body style, I felt that the Dart had the look, and with its smaller, more nimble size, it would be the perfect street car platform." The completely stock Slant Six post car was his for $4,500, and Greg drove it as-is for a while, but engineers being what they are can never leave well enough alone. It just so happened that while working the Chrysler Employee Motorsport Association (CEMA) car show at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, he found himself admiring a new, all-aluminum Sprint Car "A" motor with two of the engineers who helped design it. Before long, phrases like "that sure would make a great street motor," "piece of cake," and "nothin' to it" were being tossed around. That's when Greg decided to mate one to his Dart and build an impossibly powerful, incredibly light, spectacularly beautiful street car.
Greg was unfazed by the many unique features of the small-block "A" Sprint Car motor—his competency as an engine builder, his many contacts, and his unparalleled knowledge of the Mopar parts catalog would give him the edge, but it certainly wouldn't be a piece of cake. What resulted is a creation with layer upon layer of subtle fabrication and creative problem solving; the engine bay alone is like an Easter egg hunt for Mopar guys with big-boy pants. Witness the handmade billet mid plates, the wet sump conversion, the external oil pump/steering pump combo with remote reservoir, the overachieving W-9 cylinder heads, the cast-aluminum engine block, the custom accessory brackets and pulleys, the hydraulic clutch system, the coolant system plumbing.
The detuned 410ci plant runs a .700-inch lift solid-roller COMP bumpstick with 11:1 Diamond pistons on 93-octane pump gas mixed via a Holley 950-cfm Ultra double pumper mounted to a Mopar Performance single-plane intake. The alloy marvel is good for an estimated 700 hp, and that's enough to warrant a seriously strong transmission. No girly automatic for this Super Stock hero—Greg went right for the good stuff with a Liberty clutch-assisted five-speed and a dual-disc 10,000 RPM clutch assembly. This guarantees that Greg can power-shift at the 8,500-rpm redline without worrying about a missed shift or a wiped clutch. All this feeds power to a bomb-proof 3.73-cogged Dana 60 from Strange.
The hoodscoop on the Dart is a scaled-down custom rendering of an original A990 Super Stoc
And while this Dart has yet to be tested at the track (Greg's been rained out a handful of times already), the street car suspension is decidedly drag-race oriented. An experimental torsion-bar RMS AlterKtion front suspension with Afco double-adjustable shocks, rack-and-pinion steering conversion, and 11/16-inch sway bar securely nest the shiny small-block bullet by means of custom-made spool-type motor mounts attached to billet mid plates. In the rear, a custom ladder bar "Battle Cruiser" suspension from Chassis Works gets help from QA1 Stocker Star single-adjustable shocks. Credit for much of the chassis fabrication, including the mini-tubs, boxed subframe, rollbar, and subframe connectors, goes to the one and only Mike Pustelny of MPR.
One area Greg would've been insane not to update is the drum brakes, which are now non-boosted Wilwood two-piston calipers with discs measuring 11-inch (front), and 12.19-inch (rear). These fit handily inside the 15-inch American Racing Salt Flat Special wheels, which wear Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 26x8.00R15LT (front) and 315/60R15 ET Street radials (rear).
While Greg did much of the work himself, including the engine build, the rest of the build team reads like a brain trust of the Mopar performance universe, with Mike Pustelny (MPR), Bill Beaudin (PSI), Ted Spehar (PSI), Gary Stanton, Bill Reilly (RMS), Kirk Carbary, Steve Atwell, and Jim Szilagyi getting special kudos. "I've really led a blessed life from my days as a 19-year-old kid who hired in at Chrysler till now," Greg says. "I have to pinch myself once in a while when I think of all the great people I have been able to lean on for help. You know who you are, and you know you can lean on me as well."
The result is a case study in perfection, restrain, refinement, and singleness of purpose. This Dart's only job is to wow the driver, a single passenger, and privileged bystanders with a straight-line smoke show of speed, fury, and beauty. It does this with deference to the storied history of past Mopar performers, yet gives a nod to the evolving face of technology with its hot alloy engine, suspension, and powertrain. It possesses none of the trappings of soft life in the slow lane, such as A/C, power brakes, stereo, or cupholders, but we think you'll agree none of them will be missed.
BY THE NUMBERS
1968 Dodge Dart
Greg Charney, 64
The all-aluminum Mopar Performance “A” engine was originally designed for alcohol-fueled S
Type: 410ci Chrysler small-block (Sprint Car)
Block: cast-aluminum, Mopar Performance "A"
Bore x stroke: 4.16 x 3.80 inches
Rotating assembly: Bryant billet steel crankshaft, Eagle connecting rods, Diamond flat-top pistons
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Fuel: 93-octane gasoline
Cylinder heads: Mopar Performance CNC-ported 15-degree W-9 raised-port cast aluminum, 2.15-inch Titanium intake valves, 1.625-inch Inconel exhaust valves, 343 cfm flow at .700-inch lift
Camshaft: COMP Cams solid roller, 267/277 degrees duration at .050-inch lift, .700-inch valve lift
Valvetrain: PSI dual valvesprings (245 pounds seat force, 620 pounds at .700-inch lift), T&D 1.6:1 aluminum roller rockers, Trend custom pushrods, Xceledyne Titanium retainers and locks, Milodon geardrive, Crane solid-roller lifters
Induction: Mopar Performance single-plane intake, ported by Rick Mudge
Carburetor: Holley 950-cfm Ultra HP
Oil system: single-stage Nutter oil pump with power steering pump on rear, Olsen aluminum pan, wet sump conversion
Exhaust: 2-inch primary custom headers (32-inch length) built by Greg Charney, dual 3-inch exhaust, Dual Flowmaster Super 40s
Ignition: MSD Billet distributor and box, 35 degrees total timing
Cooling: Mark 7 custom aluminum radiator, individual feed and return lines for W-9 cylinder heads
Output: approximately 700 hp
Engine built by: Greg Charney
Transmission: Liberty LSC5000 clutch-assisted five-speed (First, 3.776; Second, 2.522; Third, 1.878; Fourth, 1.443; Fifth, 1:1) with 10,000 RPM dual-disc clutch, Tilton hydraulic release, custom lightweight steel flywheel
Rearend: narrowed Strange Dana 60, 3.73 gears with Detroit TrueTrac differential
Frame: factory unitized body construction, modified by Mike Pustelny of MPR (rollbar, subframe connectors, boxed frame, mini-tubs)
Front suspension: Reilly Motorsports (RMS) AlterKtion experimental torsion-bar K-member, Afco double-adjustable shocks, 11/16-inch sway bar
Rear suspension: custom Chassis Works "Battle Cruiser" ladder bar rear suspension with QA1 single-adjustable coilovers
Steering: Reilly Motorsports (RMS) power rack-and-pinion conversion
Brakes: Wilwood dual-piston 11-inch discs (front), Wilwood dual-piston 12.19-inch discs (rear)
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: American Racing Salt Flat Special; 15x6 (front), 15x10 (rear)
Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 26x8.00R15LT (front); Mickey Thompson DOT ET Street radials, 315/60R15 (rear)